Climbing Mount Everest is treacherous at the best of times with climber deaths increasing in recent years, but now five Europeans are attempting to ascend the Himalaya peak this winter, all without additional oxygen.
AP: Tashi Sherpa
Records vary on how many successful attempts have been made in snow season but only a handful of climbers have achieved the feat, with the last successful attempt to summit in winter, coming 27 years ago, in 1993.
Now, five climbers are attempting to scale Everest, battling extreme cold, high winds and piled-up snow and ice.
The climbers — three from Spain and two from Germany — are already acclimatising around Everest's base camp area as they wait for weather conditions to improve, said Meera Acharya of Nepal's Department of Mountaineering.
They are expected to be accompanied on their ascent by Nepalese Sherpa guides, but it was not yet decided how many would go up the slope with them.
While there are no rules prohibiting climbers from attempting to scale Everest during the winter, only a handful have reached the mountain's 8,850-metre-high peak during that season.
The climbers from Germany are Jost Kobusch and his photographer Daniel Hug, as confirmed by
The Himalayan Times.
The Spanish trio are Alex Txikon, Oscar Cardo Briones and Jonathan Gracia Villa, and all five will attempt to make the climb without supplemental oxygen.
Mr Txikon is the most famous of the five — having climbed 11 8,000m peaks, including the winter ascent of Nanga Parbat (the peak made famous by Brad Pitt film Seven Years in Tibet) in 2016.
Mr Txikon has already tried to climb Everest in winter before without supplemental oxygen, in 2018, but he was forced to abandon the challenge due to strong winds.
Everest is mainly scaled during the spring climbing season in April and May, when weather conditions are favourable, however, the 2019 season led to a large number of deaths and unprecedented traffic on the peaks.
Twelve mountaineers died during the season in 2019 as more permits were issued than ever before, possibly leading to more relatively inexperienced climbers taking on the mountain.
Lydia Bradley, who has climbed Everest, confirmed this when she wrote:
"It is quite common now that people attempting Everest have never climbed a peak over 7,000m and some — not many peaks at all."
Poor weather also cut the May climbing window short, which led to many climbers trying to reach the summit.
It also led to more garbage being left on the mountain and clean-up crews in 2019 brought back down 10 tonnes of rubbish that was littered across the mountain.
However, when the five Europeans try to summit this winter, the mess and the people are not a challenge they will face.
The challenge will be the extreme cold and the winds that saw one of the original two men to conquer Everest in the winter, Polish climber Krzysztof Wielicki, suffer severe frostbite on his feet.
He and fellow Pole Leszek Cichy were the first to summit in winter back in 1980 and were part of an initial team of 20 who tried to make the climb.